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Rotherham scandal victims: ‘Police knew but didn’t act’

Former Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police Med Hughes, who ran the force between 2004 and 2011

Former Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police Med Hughes, who ran the force between 2004 and 2011

Two victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham have separately said police were told repeatedly they were being abused – but did nothing.

The two girls, now young women, were among an estimated 1,400 victims in the town between 1997 and 2013, and said they were both told by police nothing could be done about their cases.

One of the women, Sarah Wilson, who is now 22, has waived her right to anonymity to speak about her ordeal in a bid to persuade other victims to come forward.

She said she was groomed from the age of 11, and suffered dozens of attacks over five years at the hands of a gang of Asian men.

She said: “They felt they were fearless and untouchable. They laughed and said they would never be punished.

“The police said I was ‘asking for it’ and that I didn’t do myself any favours by hanging around with these men.

“I was taken in by social services half a dozen times and had an assigned social worker who was very much aware of what was happening. I was being viciously groomed and locked in strange homes with dirty, filthy men. I had no voice to speak. No-one listened.”

Another victim claimed she was groomed into a two-year sexual relationship with a man 10 years older than her, something police again knew about. She said the abuse started when she was 14.

Jessica – not her real name – said she thought she was in love with the 24-year-old man, despite his violent rages which she said eventually led to him trying to kill her.

It was only two years ago, when she saw reports of revelations of similar cases in the media, that she realised she had been groomed by a paedophile.

She is one of 17 women taking action against Rotherham Council to claim compensation for failings by police and social services.

Jessica said she met the man when he picked her up in his car in 1999 after he spotted her with friends outside shops in the town.

Her parents were furious and contacted the police within days, but Jessica said officers did little to intervene.

Jessica was put into care when she was 15, but the relationship continued.

It became violent, starting with shouting before progressing to slaps and shoving, and him pulling her hair. The relationship ended when she was 16, but months later she said he saw her in the town and attacked her, trying to push her over a balcony.

Jessica said she and her family complained to the police repeatedly but little was done.

She said: “When I was 16 I was trying for a year to make statements to the police.

“For the whole two years of the relationship my parents were trying to bring charges but the police were saying that because I didn’t make a statement earlier nothing could be done.”

Jessica, who is now 29, said she was shocked by the findings of the Jay report.

“I think it is absolutely disgusting. There are 1,400 victims. When somebody is abused their parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles suffer. Thousands and thousands of people’s lives have been ruined because Rotherham Council and the police couldn’t be bothered to deal with it because they didn’t want to clash over a race row,” she said.

“They are not sorry I got abused – they are sorry for being caught out. I think it is an absolutely huge cover-up. You can’t tell me 1,400 children have been abused and they didn’t know about it.”

Jessica said she is now over the emotional trauma, but is still angry and wants answers into why police let the abuse go on.

Following the report’s publication, South Yorkshire Police said it ‘fully acknowledged its previous failings’ and apologised to victims and their families who had been let down in the past.

But the force said it has ‘completely overhauled’ how it deals with such cases and now treats them with the ‘utmost severity and sensitivity’.

 

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